Pressure and timing.

Friday morning’s contest between Skaneateles and Foxdale Equine/Peachtree, their opening games in the Aiken Polo Club’s USPA Copper Cup 12 goal at Quarter More, was an intense battle featuring constant and consistent changes in momentum. However, the match would be decided on the last play of the game, in regulation, as Skaneateles held on for a 10-9 victory. Skaneateles’ roster was composed of Marty Cregg, Cesar Jimemez, Ulysses Escapite and Pelon Escapite. Foxdale Equine/Peachtree’s team featured a lineup including Hugh Worsham, Randy Rizor, Julian Daniels and Marcos Onetto.

Foxdale Equine/Peachtree opened the game’s scoring, and it would be the same player accounting for both goals, Marcos Onetto successfully converted a 30-yard penalty shot, and then followed with a goal from the field. But the game quickly changed direction as Skaneateles, who received a goal as a result of the handicap differential, responded emphatically with a pair of goals from Pelon Escapite, a goal from the field and one on a 30-yard penalty shot.

Skaneateles rode that momentum into the next period as Pelon Escapite’s goal gave them a two goal advantage. But a change in momentum and direction was imminent, Foxdale Equine/Peachtree’s Julian Daniels, employing his excellent anticipation and vision, reduced the deficit to a goal. Marcos Onetto tied the game at 4-4, with his third goal of the game, the result of a successful penalty conversion.

The third chukker would feature more of the same ramped up intensity, with both team’s engineering scoring drives. Pelon Escapite and Marcos Onetto would trade goals, and Skaneateles would take a 6-5 lead into the half.

A strong start to the game’s second half by Foxdale Equine/Peachtree found them scoring consecutive goals, regaining the lead on successive drives, the first goal aided by a horse, the second by way of a 30-yard penalty shot by Marcos Onetto. But Skaneateles would battle back on a goal by Cesar Jimenez, who shed a pair of defenders en route to finishing the play, and they would add another with 37 seconds remaining in the chukker by the way of a 30-yard penalty shot by Pelon Escapite.

Both teams played aggressively, and were very good at finding openings and exploiting them. Skaneateles would go up by two goals, creating offensive opportunties, and forcing the opposition to foul. Pelon Escapite converted a 30-yard penalty shot. Foxdale Equine/Peachtree showed no hesitation or intrepidation, as Marcos Onetto and Julian Daniels got to a number of balls to start plays, and in doing so relieved the pressure on their teammates. Onetto tied the game at 8-8, with his sixth goal of the game. Pelon Escapite could have scored another goal, but his shot was so hard, the ball broke into multiple pieces, stifling the drive.

Foxdale Equine/Peachtree continued to attack the offensive zone, and they would retake the lead in the early stages of the final chukker, on a 40-yard penalty shot by Onetto. However, Foxdale Equine/Peachtree had a series of offensive drives they couldn’t finish, missing three opportunities to put the game away. A consistent work effort by Skaneateles allowed them to tie the game at 9-9, on yet another goal by Pelon Escapite, a successful penalty conversion.

However, it would be the intuitive sense of the Escapite brothers during the game’s final seconds of play as Ulysses Escapite threaded a pass to his brother Pelon, who was in perfect position to score the game winner.

“We got lucky,” said Pelon Escapite. “It was one of those game changers. They could have put us away, but somehow the Polo Gods took care of that. If you don’t put them in, the other team will. Uly and I play together a lot. I missed an opportunity and Julian went for the foul. Uly had to hit the ball up front, and I was by myself. I was on a fresh horse, and somehow managed to put that one in. I was thinking, don’t miss this one.”